I discuss the concept of mindfulness quite often. Mindfulness is fundamental to a meaningful life. Mindfulness is being in the moment, each moment, noticing our actions, reactions, and feelings toward others and the environment.
Mindfulness puts seemingly ordinary, routine, everyday life events under a magnifying glass for close inspection – the things few people notice.
So, this blog might make no sense to you (and you will probably think I am just extra weird). With that warning in mind, continue reading if you want to try this.
You have probably heard that clutter is, at its core, a bunch of postponed decisions. Let’s put the concept of timeliness under that magnifying glass to illustrate its importance and consequences.
Clutter, Mess, and Chaos Creep In
If a drop of tomato sauce falls on the floor while you cook, one of two things will likely happen: you take four seconds to wipe the area clean at that moment, or you keep cooking undisturbed because you can always clean it later (Oh, later).
You continue with your culinary endeavor. Then either you or someone else inadvertently steps on the spot one or several times. The inoffensive tomato drop that could have taken four seconds to clean is now significantly spread on the kitchen floor. Also, mixed with shoe dirt, it has transformed that four-second job into a floor moping task that adds five minutes to your schedule. But that is just the time. Consider the effort of prepping the mop, mopping the floor, and then cleaning that mop afterward.
The Toxic Build-Up
It is your choice to postpone taking any action – of course! But understand that the timeliness of actions does matter, and when we delay decisions, consequences usually follow. Often, those consequences come in the form of additional time and effort required to achieve the same goal. That extra effort needed to accomplish the same goal grows with each passing minute. The prospect of that extra effort growing as time goes by decreases the likelihood of any action or decision-making. As times goes by, the consequences of inaction compound. And you still need to address them later.
The tomato drop example might seem insignificant. But unnecessarily postponed tasks and decisions can bring much more impactful consequences. Life constantly provides us with opportunities to neglect or delay actions and decisions of all kinds. And the consequences related to ignoring them might not bother us, especially if you do not take notice immediately. But sooner or later, you will find out that the mess accumulated due to neglected or postponed decisions and actions is such that you no longer feel capable of bringing your home environment under control.
Neglected Actions Create Chain Reactions
Let’s suppose that because dad is an early riser, he gets assigned the chore of emptying the dishwasher and feeding the dog in the morning. There is an understanding that these activities should happen before the rest of the family gets up.
But dad starts wasting precious morning time doing anything but those two chores under his responsibility. As the rest of the family members go to have breakfast, the equipment they need is still inside the dishwasher. Everyone tries to get what they need directly from the machine, and dad tries to complete his unfinished task at that (very inopportune) time.
Everyone trips over the dishwasher’s open door and steps over a wet kitchen floor. It turns out the stuff coming out of the washer is still wet because the dishwasher is a piece of junk, and no one has bothered to replace it or call for repair service. So, the floor is now a mess that will require mopping with cleaner instead of a piece of towel paper to dry some water.
Do not forget the dog that has not eaten. The poor thing is in the middle of it all and pretty hungry. Dad knows he should have fed the dog and starts mixing the stuff into her bowl. He takes up considerable counter space to complete the task while others deal with their breakfast in the reduced counter space left.
But everyone has responsibilities and places to go – delaying breakfast is not necessarily an option.
Each person usually rinses their things and puts them inside the dishwasher. It takes about one minute to do. On this day, however, since the dishwasher is still partially loaded with clean items, dirty stuff cannot yet go in the machine. So, the first person to finish breakfast puts dirty utensils in the sink without rinsing (because rinsing is an action associated with placing things inside the dishwasher, and this is not the case this time). The action taken by the first person is the cue for all others to do the same, even when the dishwasher becomes available in the next three minutes. (You know, “so and so did not do it, why do I have to do it?” syndrome). Dishes are piling up in the sink and on the counter, with food remains, making them crusty (yeah!).
The day goes by, with the pile of dirty dishes and utensils over the kitchen counter and in the sink. It will take more time and effort to rinse those dishes and to place them inside the dishwasher now. Also, the process will require someone (as in mom) to have the extra time and willingness to do so. That one-minute job has turned into a ten-minute ordeal (with resentment!). And who will happily volunteer to take on the task at the end of the day when everyone is tired? And let’s not forget that now the kitchen needs to be cleaned up before dinner cooking even starts. Hello, kitchen clutter.
Often the action is not taken, or a decision is left unmade because we forget and not necessarily because we run away from it purposely. But that is yet another consequence of delaying or postponing. Like that alarm in the iPhone to remind you of your noon pills, for example. Can you count the times it has gone off, and you have ignored it, thinking you will take care of it in five minutes? Hours later, you realize you did not take your pills.
A Nourishing Home
When you live in a household, you are part of a system. Everyone’s actions and inactions directly impact the unit function. If you are relied upon to complete specific tasks, please understand that such chores are tethered to a time frame and not subject to when you “feel like it.” “Feeling like it” might never come, and it is not a reliable time frame.
When all household members understand and accept the home systems and perform their duties on time, no chore becomes too big to accomplish. Such home works efficiently, keeps the chaos at bay, improves family relationships, and enhances the positive energy flow. It is a nourishing, supportive, and efficient place.
Does this ring a bell? Observe these patterns in your life for about a week – on the big things and the seemingly insignificant ones. You will probably see the cause/effect of delayed decisions and observe their ripple effect in your life. You will make amazing discoveries!